Friday, 14 March 2014

Friday Feminism: “We need feminism because … Equality for Women is Progress for All”

I wrote this for the next edition of Nucleus, UNE's student newspaper - it should be out sometime this week, but this is what I came up with, anyway.

Because I'm out of practice with my writing, it took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to say. I didn't want to whine about all the things that are wrong, although technically I have pointed them out anyway, in this list. I also stole from the blog a little, but nobody reading it at uni is going to know that, unless you tell them.

Here is what I wrote:

March 8th was International Women’s Day. The official United Nations theme for 2014 is ‘Equality for Women is Progress for All’. For me, that means calling myself a feminist, and believing in feminist causes. 
When I call myself a feminist, this is what I mean: I'm 28 and unmarried, free to use birth control, believe in a woman's right to choose, am pursuing further education, work to support myself, spend my money how I please, spend my time doing things I enjoy (some of which have no conceivable contribution to society), have actively involved myself in contributing to society, have various friendship circles, have developed my own politics and life philosophy. I make big and small decisions based on what I want my life to look like. I do all these things wearing what I want. I encourage others to do the same, and I'm aware that as a white, middle class, educated woman, I am incredibly fortunate and privileged compared with many others in the world. I am knowingly lucky, and try my best to make the most of all this opportunity. I do my best to exercise compassion and care for others, regardless of our similarities or our differences, but I reserve the right to fail at these lofty aspirations occasionally.

I believe I deserve to walk in the world feeling safe, and heard, and respected. I believe every human deserves that right. I believe women and men should be equal, although equality may not look the way we think it does. In the world we all inhabit, sometimes we are equal, and sometimes we aren't.

If any of this list applies to you (particularly the last part about women and men being equal), well then, you're probably a feminist too. Oops. Feminism: it’s not just for girls.

So now I’ve established that all of us are feminists I assume the rest of my article basically writes itself. I am a privileged woman and I can only really speak for myself, but I do say this – the sooner that women and men are equal in all the ways, the happier the world shall be. And that’s this month’s theme, right? Happiness.

For the sake of a theme of happiness, I shall offer up some ideas about how awesome all the things might be for all the people in an equal world. It will be a numbered list, because that is something that makes me happy.

1.       The Celebration of Everything – Girls could play football in the mud and enjoy a spot of sewing pink dresses to wear. Boys could play house and have a thing for big trucks. Women could be strong and tough and cry in public. Men could confess their insecurities to their friends and make tough decisions under pressure. A person wouldn’t even have to call themselves a man or a woman if they didn’t want, and no-one would find that a threat. The thing that makes humans amazing is the many discrepancies. In an equal world, we would allow all those parts to exist. Heck, we would celebrate all those different parts of a person.
2.       Strengths and weaknesses would be re-defined, so that anyone could be a hero. So that emotional was no longer equal to feminine and logical was no longer equal to masculine. So that being emotional did not cancel out your stakes in the fight, but neither would logical responses make you unfeeling.
3.       Everyone would be a breadwinner and a stay-at-homer. And neither one would be worth more than the other according to the law, according to society or according to ourselves.
4.       An hour of a woman’s work would be equal to an hour of a man’s work.
5.       Everyone would walk safe in the world– women would not be targeted for attacks of a sexual nature, men would not be targeted for attacks showcasing a warped sense of ‘asserting masculinity’. Nobody would be attacked because they didn’t look or ‘act’ like a man or a woman. The makers of laws would show the same level of motivation in addressing victims of domestic violence as addressing victims of king hits.
6.       No would always mean no, and yes would always mean yes, and there would be no alcohol/attire/attitude-based excuses for misreading the simple fact of the matter.
7.       Nobody would ever be excused from unacceptable behaviour because of ‘biology’. Seriously, how is this still a thing? “Boys will be boys” should not equate to prevalent rape culture in male-dominated sports. “Throwing like a girl” should not equal with weakness, or second-best, or second-class.
8.       Bodies would be off-limits as a site of demonstrating power – women would make decisions about their bodies in real and meaningful ways. Laws would not be written removing women from their reproductive rights. No-one would die having needed to break a law just to make a personal decision.
9.       Anyone who was brave enough to put their hand up to run the world or the country or the state or the city or the business or the department or the meeting should be able to do it based on merit, and not on any other factor.
10.   Amazing popular culture that actually lead by example, teaching girls, boys, women, men and everyone else that their heart and mind are cherished beyond any physical characteristics. I believe this to be the biggest wish of them all…

You see, equality for women can be progress for all – a natural extension of this epic wish list is that any person who has been victimised or devalued or disempowered would step out of the margins into this same world and be equal. Homophobia and transphobia and racism and classism and any ism you care to name, gone the way of sexism. Progress! That’s what I believe feminism to be working for.

While we feminists are humans, and bound to get things wrong sometimes, just like everyone else, we have heart and passion and courage, too. The world, and women, need feminism, for the sake and passionate pursuit of equality.


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